Jeff Sessions Is Out

Trump Maladministration

The real war between Trump and American democracy just began. Discuss.

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Midterm Return Watch

Trump Maladministration

Okay, time to get the road on the show.

It’s too early to say anything about McCaskill-Hawley in Missouri; there’s only about 1 percent of the vote counted.

Illinois will now have a Democratic governor, J.B. Pritzker. He’s not someone I’m really excited about, but the Republican incumbent, Bruce Rauner, was utterly incompetent.

Joe Donnelly lost Indiana. It looks like Manchin will keep his seat in West Virginia.

Damn, Blackburn won Tennessee. I’m sorry about that.

I don’t think there’s going to be a blue wave. It still looks as if the Dems will take the House, but not by as many seats as I’d hoped.

Looks like the critical races won’t be called until the early morning, and I’m not inclined to stay up all night waiting.

Watching the Missouri Senate race is making me crazy. Online sources like the NY Times are saying McCaskill is ahead, but the people on the teevee keep saying Hawley is ahead.

Kobach lost Kansas. Yay!

Heitkamp lost, which means Republicans now have 50 Senate seats.

NBC is calling Texas for Cruz. Damn.

The Missouri secretary of state is not releasing any voting data until all the people standing in line when the polls closed have voted.  And people are still voting. Probably there won’t be any official data until some time between 9:30 and 10 pm eastern time. That’s why numbers are all over the place for McCaskill-Hawley. There are no official numbers and various news outlets are using unofficial numbers from several sources.

NBC is saying that the Dems have taken back the House.

Well, I’m going to call it a night. I think the big races are going to be too close to call for a few hours.

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It’s Time

Trump Maladministration

Scientists say mysterious ‘Oumuamua’ object could be an alien spacecraft. Harvard researchers raise the possibility that it’s a probe sent by extraterrestrials. I wish we’d have gotten our act together better before we got probed.

Well, I’ve done my bit and voted for Claire McCaskill and a bunch of other down-ticket Dems. Fingers crossed.

There are three medicinal marijuana initiatives on the Missouri ballot. I understand that if they all pass, they cancel each other out. This was by design, no doubt. I took the advice of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and voted yes on the first and no on the other two.

Tonight sometime I’ll be blogging the returns for awhile, so if you want to drop by you are welcome.

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The Terrorists Among Us

Trump Maladministration

Back in 2009 I wrote ablog post about a report issued by the Department of Homeland Security to federal, state and local law enforcement regarding the threat of terrorism from right-wing extremists groups. And I wrote about how “conservatives” threw a fit about the report and called it a political hit job. See “Malkin et al. Admit That “Conservatives” Are Right-Wing Extremists and Potential Terrorists.”

Under pressure from conservatives, in a few months DHS repudiated the report. The chief author of the report no longer works at DHS.

Now the New York Times is running a major story called U.S. Law Enforcement Failed to See the Threat of White Nationalism. Now They Don’t Know How to Stop It. The truth is, they were warned.

This is from the NY Times story:

 According to a recent report by the nonpartisan Stimson Center, between 2002 and 2017, the United States spent $2.8 trillion — 16 percent of the overall federal budget — on counterterrorism. Terrorist attacks by Muslim extremists killed 100 people in the United States during that time. Between 2008 and 2017, domestic extremists killed 387 in the United States, according to the 2018 Anti-Defamation League report.

“We’re actually seeing all the same phenomena of what was happening with groups like ISIS, same tactics, but no one talks about it because it’s far-right extremism,” says the national-security strategist P. W. Singer, a senior fellow at the New America think tank. During the first year of the Trump administration, Singer and several other analysts met with a group of senior administration officials about building a counterterrorism strategy that encompassed a wider range of threats. “They only wanted to talk about Muslim extremism,” he says. But even before the Trump administration, he says, “we willingly turned the other way on white supremacy because there were real political costs to talking about white supremacy.”

Well, yeah.

It’s not just white nationalists. One of the women-hating he-man club members shot up a yoga studio and killed two women this weekend. There is a well documented connection between what appear to be random mass shootings and a history of domestic violence by men against women. And abortion clinic violence continues to be swept under the rug.

What’s to be done? First, law-enforcement experts say that right-wing extremists should be treated just like ISIS.

From Axios:

Far-right extremists have killed more people since 9/11 than any other category of domestic terrorism.

* 71% of extremist-related deaths between 2008 and 2017 were committed by members of a far-right movement, while Islamic extremists were responsible for 26%, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

* Between 2002 and 2017, the U.S. spent $2.8 trillion on counterterrorism. In that time frame, terrorist attacks by Muslim extremists killed 100 people in the U.S.

* Between 2008 and 2017, meanwhile, domestic extremists killed 387 people.

David Atkins:

Law enforcement has been ill-equipped to identify and deal with the threat: in part because white male anger in defense of traditional power structures is considered normative in America, in part because law enforcement has long been infiltrated by white supremacists who defend their own, and in part because of a considered and explicit effort by the conservative political movement to prevent federal law enforcement for doing so–including by scuttling a landmark government report on the problem. Indeed, the Trump administration is shutting down an Obama-era program to counter threats of domestic terrorism even as it wields xenophobia to focus on the far less dangerous threat of attacks by foreign agents.

Here’s the hard part:

But all of this raises a terrifying question: if this horrific wave of right-wing terror is rising when these deplorable men are at the height of their political power, what happens when even that power is wrested from their control? What happens when several more years of natural demographic changes replace conservative boomers with progressive millennials and rural whites with urban and suburban diverse communities? When Democrats regain the White House, Congress and many state governments in a census year, eliminating many of the “structural advantages” conservatives have put in place to gerrymander districts and implement restrictive voting laws?

What happens when these hateful men discover that even politically, the country is finally irrevocably lost to them? What kind of asymmetric violence and terrorist insurgencies will we see from them when they don’t just feel disempowered despite all their power and privilege, but actually do find themselves truly out of power?

And the next question is, what will we do about it? As a people and as a nation? How far are we willing to go? What will we be willing to do?

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Not Elections, Not Trump

Trump Maladministration

I don’t want to talk about the midterms until they are over. I don’t want to complain about Trump. What else is there to say about Trump? So what else is in the news?

Anti-vaxxers. I genuinely hate anti-vaxxers. I see that anti-vaccine billboards are popping up in several states. Who is paying for this? It suggests some kind of organized movement, not just crazy people on Facebook. Somebody must be making money on anti-vaxx propaganda, but I haven’t figured out how or who. Now there’s a nasty measles outbreak in Europe that could spread here.

Venice is flooding, and it appears the city government is too corrupt to deal with it.

This investigative report into rot in the Little Rock Police Department is disturbing but not surprising.

Why I miss Halloween in New York. Hey, maybe the mystery mandarin duck in Central Park is a mallard in disguise?

 

 

 

 

 

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Reality Slips Further Away from the GOP

Trump Maladministration

Greg Sargent describes the corner the GOP has painted itself into. They find themselves having to appeal to two very different groups of traditional Republican voters — white collar suburbanites and blue collar rural and exurban voters. And the message that works for one turns off the other.

Trump and Republicans have distilled down Trumpism’s core narratives into a series of ludicrous and menacing cartoons for the GOP base’s consumption. Why? Brownstein’s analysis provides an answer: Because the bulwark against truly large GOP losses in the House is made up of many districts that are competitive but are also heavily populated with blue-collar, rural, small-town, exurban and evangelical whites. Hold off Democrats in all those districts, and if they win the majority, it will be a limited one.

And so, to galvanize those voters, Trump has directed bread-and-circuses belligerence at euro-weenie elites and China. He has employed endless lies and hate-mongering to hype the migrant “caravan” into a national emergency, and will send in troops as props to dramatize the point. Republicans are running ads absurdly depicting immigrants as criminals and invaders alongside many other ones that indulge in naked race-baiting. Trump is vowing an end to birthright citizenship, confirming the ethno-nationalist underpinnings of Trumpism and further fanning the xenophobic flames.

Polls tell us that Republicans appear to be losing big time in white collar suburbs, which includes the famous soccer mom vote, even though the economy is, by some measures, not that bad, or at least hasn’t crashed from Trump’s policies, yet. Why is that?

One likely answer is that the story Trump has told about the economy — and the country — just isn’t resonating in many of these districts. That narrative is that immigration and globalization pose major threats to the well-being of Americans, and Trump is now acting on those threats, via stepped-up deportations from the interior, efforts to slash legal immigration and refugee flows, and trade wars. That, plus his tax cut, has created the supposed “Trump boom,” in stark contrast with the economy under Barack Obama, which is uniformly depicted as a pre-Trumpian hellscape.

But people who live in white-collar suburbs probably noticed that the economy under Barack Obama wasn’t a pre-Trumpian hellscape. Further, upper income people are more likely to be directly dependent on the global economy and are less likely to feel personally threatened by immigration than, apparently, people who live in more isolated rural areas.

So in appeals to surburan voters, Republicans soften the rhetoric quite a bit.

 While Republicans employ garish race-baiting to galvanize the hard-core white GOP base, this ad’s soft-focus messaging directed at white suburban women features none of that imagery. The spot’s iconic white suburban woman is obviously conflicted over her vote — we aren’t told why, but we know full well why — but finally checks the “Republican” box out of concern over her child’s economic future.

But even that “soft” ad is based on the fiction that Democrats are bad for the economy, which is a claim that anyone old enough to remember the 1990s ought to at least question.

Republicans are also running ads vowing to protect people with preexisting conditions, yet they have also locked themselves into opposition to Obamacare, which Democrats are now campaigning on protecting. As Ezra Klein explains, this has left Republicans with no alternative but to lie relentlessly to obscure the real GOP health-care agenda, which is to deregulate insurance markets and regressively strip protections and economic assistance from millions. This, too, is deeply unpopular.

Trump and Republicans are closing by lying about health care and taxes to limit losses among suburban and well-educated white voters, and lying about immigration while race-baiting against individual Democratic candidates to keep the downscale white GOP base energized. This probably won’t be enough for Republicans to keep the House. But whatever is to be on this front, the need to lie so relentlessly about all these matters itself constitutes an admission of failure. The public has seen Trump’s fusion of ethno-nationalism and orthodox GOP plutocracy put into governing practice, and is rejecting it.

But there’s a bigger problem for Republicans, as revealed in research into senior staffers in Congress. It turns out that folks in Washington have no idea what laws their constituents actually want them to enact. This was true of both parties, but much more so for Republicans than for Democrats.

Across the five issues, Democratic staff members tended to be more accurate than Republicans. Democrats guessed about 13 points closer to the truth on average than Republicans.

And this is a problem because …

Whether the Democrats or the Republicans seize control of Congress after the midterms, you can be sure of one thing: They will have very little idea what laws the public actually wants them to act on.

The current Republican-controlled Congress is a good example. Its signature accomplishment is a tax-cut bill that hardly anyone likes or asked for and that is estimated to add about $2 trillion to the national debt over the next decade.

Only about 30 percent of Americans supported it — unlike the well over 70 percent of Americans who consistently support raising the minimum wagebackground checks for gun sales and taking action on the climate crisis. Bills were actually proposed on these issues, but you would hardly know it; they were barely considered, and it goes without saying that none passed.

So, there is a huge opportunity for Democrats if they take back the House. They can start passing laws that reflect what people in their districts actually want, and then if Republicans block them they can go to their constitutents and blame the GOP. But if they continue their tactics of the past — negotiating with themselves, attempting bipartisan cooperation — Republicans will take the House back again in 2020.

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One More Week

Trump Maladministration

Today we woke up to the news that Trump thinks he can ignore the 14th Amendment and end birthright citizenship by executive order. He also plans to appoint his favorite golf cart to the Senate.

Okay, I made up the part about the golf cart. But I wouldn’t put it past him.

Greg Sargent writes,

To oversimplify, the idea that this can be undone by executive order turns on a rather creative interpretation of an 1890s Supreme Court decision. That decision interpreted the 14th Amendment — which holds that “all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens” — to apply to, well, all persons born in the U.S. The restrictionists claim this does not apply to the children of undocumented immigrants, because they aren’t “subject to the jurisdiction” of the United States.

The argument is absurd — undocumented immigrants are indeed subject to U.S. jurisdiction, and denying their children citizenship privileges would be unconstitutional. But Trump could theoretically direct federal agencies via executive order to stop treating the children of non-citizens as citizens. This would be challenged, and the Supreme Court would then “clarify” whether birthright citizenship applies to the children of the undocumented. (With this court, you never know.)

I understand the “jurisdiction” part to refer to the children of diplomats. Diplomats are not subject to U.S. laws and therefore are not under U.S. jurisdiction, so a child born to the diplomatic of a foreign country in the U.S. is not automatically granted citizenship. Unless Trump proposes extending diplomatic immunity to undocumented immigrants, I don’t see how his argument holds water. This is something I’ve written about before; see The Constitutional Anchor Baby Crisis and The Constitutional Anchor Baby Crisis, Revisited.

And then there’s Mike Pence.

Vice President Mike Pence was roundly criticized on Monday for appearing at a campaign rally in Michigan at which a “Messianic rabbi” invoked Jesus in mourning the deaths of 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

Messianic Judaism, which believes that Jesus is the messiah and considers the New Testament to be authentic, is not recognized as Jewish by any mainstream Jewish movement in the United States, or by the Chief Rabbinate, the supreme spiritual authority for Judaism in Israel.

Also,

Two days after the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history, Vice President Pence bowed his head at a rally on Monday in Michigan as a religious leader who casts himself as a “rabbi” offered a prayer for the victims in Pittsburgh.

But the man who shared a stage with Pence, Loren Jacobs, preaches Messianic Judaism, a tradition central to Jews for Jesus, a group condemned by Jewish leaders as faux Judaism that seeks to promote Christian evangelism. The major Jewish denominations join the state of Israel in viewing followers of Messianic Judaism as Christian, not Jewish.

His appearance drew outrage on social media. Jason A. Miller, a Detroit-area rabbi, wrote on Facebook that more than 60 rabbis appeared in a directory of the Michigan Board of Rabbis — “and yet the only rabbi they could find to offer a prayer for the 11 Jewish victims in Pittsburgh at the Mike Pence Rally was a local Jew for Jesus rabbi?”

I take it Republicans weren’t counting on the Jewish vote in the midterms.

Meanwhile, the list of people who will not meet with Trump in Pittsburgh today seems to be growing. The list includes the family of at least one of the victims and Tree of Life Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, according to Politico.

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Are We Disgusted Enough Yet?

Trump Maladministration

The Creature is going to go to Pittsburgh tomorrow and pretend that he cares. I won’t be watching. Be sure to read the letter to Trump from Pittsburgh Jewish leadersNewsweek reports that Ivanka and Mr. Ivanka had to persuade Trump to explicitly denounce anti-Semitism.

Does anyone want to bet that he can get through a speech about the massacre at the synagogue without saying something nasty about somebody? Or bragging about himself? Or claiming that people are mean to him, too?

Paul Waldman:

 In the age of Trump, the politics of conservative victimhood has reached new heights. And as usual, it comes right from the top.

After bombs were sent to a dozen people President Trump had attacked, he quickly identified the person really being threatened. “Come to think of it, who gets attacked more than me?” he asked at a White House political event just after reading some words about unity that were obviously written by others and about which he couldn’t have cared less.

Dana Milbank:

Eleven Jews are dead in Pittsburgh, gunned down during Shabbat services allegedly by a man who shared President Trump’s paranoia about a migrant caravan. Pipe bombs were sent to more than a dozen of Trump’s favorite political targets, including the homes of two former presidents, Democratic leaders and CNN.

But let us not lose sight of the real victim here: Donald Trump.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders hadn’t given a briefing in nearly a month, so she had a lot of time to build up grievances before Monday afternoon’s session. She emerged half an hour late with a scowl, and read a written statement containing the requisite denunciations of the attack in Pittsburgh and affirmations of Trump’s affection for Jews.

But when the questioning got going, it became clear that she was rather less animated by the pipe bombs and the synagogue massacre than by perceived attacks on Trump by the media.

“The very first thing the media did was blame the president and make him responsible for these ridiculous acts,” she began. “That is outrageous.”

Whenever I write about Sarah Sanders I am tempted to include the image of the Mouth of Sauron from The Return of the King. 

Haaretz is reporting that Netanyahu’s deplomats are carrying water for Trump:

Unfortunately, their message of sympathy is being undermined by the shameful effort of Israel’s top diplomats in the U.S. to absolve Donald Trump of any responsibility for fomenting an atmosphere of right-wing hate and, even more outrageously, to implicate anti-Semitism on the left instead.

For many American Jews, Trump’s cardinal sin is the false equivalence he created between neo-Nazis and leftist demonstrators in the wake of the August 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, in which Heather Heyer was killed.

There are “fine people” on both sides, Trump said, infuriating Americans in general and American Jews in particular. This did not deter Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer and New York Consul General Dani Dayan, however, from using the same odious analogy.

Rather than focus on the neo-Nazi credentials of Pittsburgh perpetrator Robert Bowers or on Florida’s serial pipe-bomber Cesar Sayoc’s endless admiration for Trump, Dermer and Dayan opted to muddy the waters. The two senior diplomats emulated the U.S. president by obfuscating the clear-cut white supremacist backdrop of the Pittsburgh atrocity and, in Dermer’s case, by commending Trump’s statement after the attack.

So Israeli officials are siding with Nazis?

In other news: Politico reports that Trump doesn’t do any work.  And former President Jimmy Carter sent a letter to Republican nominee for governor, Brian Kemp, asking him to resign as Georgia secretary of state.

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What’s Happening Now, Golden Parachute Edition

Trump Maladministration

(The shooter in Pittsburgh, according to early and possibly unreliable reporting, is so far right that he turned against Trump after Charlottesville because he thought Trump didn’t speak up to defend the neo-Nazis against antifa. It’s said the guy was obsessed with the “caravan is coming” propaganda on Fox News, and he blamed Jews and George Soros for the caravan. Again, though, this isn’t corroborated and might be wrong.)

Megyn Kelly is now officially bounced from NBC. We might reflect on how stupid it was to hire her in the first place. Erik Wemple writes,

Kelly left Fox News for NBC News with a considerable incentive in the form of a $69 million contract over three years. That would be nearly $900,000 per bi-weekly paycheck, before taxes, insurance and whatnot.

There are many problems with this pay level. One is connection: How is a person from the top 0.01 percentsupposed to promulgate coverage that’s in touch with the needs of the poor or even the middle class? When she was hired to her NBC News spot, Kelly was supposed to participate in political coverage now and then. Was she supposed to speak about the anger of the economically displaced with a straight face?

Next is priorities: How many top-tier investigative journalists could NBC News pay with $23 million a year? At $200,000 per year, it could afford 115 such journalists. With such a crew, perhaps the network wouldn’t have needed any investigation into a fumbled Weinstein story.

Of course, network news is all about ratings and advertising revenue, not news reporting, which is one reason Donald Trump is president now. According to Wemple, the fellow who hired Kelly was Andy Lack. Lack also has a history of protecting employees accused of sexual harassment, such as Matt Lauer, and he caught the blame for NBC’s killing Ronan Farrow’s reporting on Harvey Weinstein, which Farrow then took elsewhere.

Lack claimed he was hiring Kelly because she was such a great journalist, which she isn’t. She’s a bobblehead. Lack possibly believed that Kelly’s audience from Fox News would follow her to NBC, but they didn’t. Wemple wrote a couple of days ago,

Fox News is the “plug-in” network, as this blog has often called it. The genius of Ailes and Rupert Murdoch was to create a programming conceit targeting an entire population of Americans, a conceit that spread across the network’s lineup. Loyalty goes more to the brand, the channel, than to this-or-that anchor. That’s why Kelly didn’t bring her audience with her to NBC News.

It’s also the case that she was a bad fit for NBC. Wemple continued,

While Kelly did indeed conduct many excellent interviews at Fox News, she also — as has been widely noted again in the aftermath of her blackface comments — turned in racially offensive work, including the well-publicized comments about Jesus and Santa (they’re white, kids!), the hyping of voter-intimidation charges against members of the New Black Panther Party and other moments. With the support of her colleagues and Ailes, Kelly had no trouble weathering the outcries that followed these moments.

On the other hand: Had any of those instances occurred under the roof of NBC News, the backlash would have resembled what we’ve witnessed this week. Colleagues would have rage-tweeted; management would have scrambled; apologies would have streamed from the organization. Maybe NBC News executives determined that those Fox News scandals were aberrations, that Kelly wouldn’t pack those sensibilities with her when she moved into her office at NBC News. Whatever the case, they made a mistake. “I didn’t focus on what the Fox sensibility is versus what the NBC News sensibility is,” Lack said after Kelly’s hiring. “I did want to know that I thought she would fit into the NBC culture.”

She clearly did not.

As I have ranted here in the past, most of the people who end up being Masters of the Universe didn’t get there by being exceptionally smart or talented. They got there by being aggressive, by shrewd networking, by being at the right place at the right time. Andy Lack screwed up, big time, by hiring her. Will NBC do anything about that?

Helaine Olen writes at WaPo,

The news of Kelly’s rather extraordinary payday, for what can charitably be deemed a subpar performance, comes the same week the New York Times discovered that Andy Rubin, a high-level executive at Google and the creator of the Android operating system, received a staggering $90 million exit package when he was shown the door in 2014 following credible allegations of sexual misconduct.

The Android operating system is a big deal, but is it a $90 million golden parachute big deal? How is it that one can rise to a position in which one is rewarded by truckloads of money even when one screws up?

There are, it’s fair to say, a lot of things that are eating away at American society at the moment. But one thing that doesn’t get the attention it deserves is how the wealthy and powerful get chance after chance and, even when they fail, get to exit on a generously padded slide — while the rest of us, on the other hand, too often live precarious lives, one lost job away from financial disaster.

Well, yeah. When the Megyn Kellys and Andy Rubins soak up vast sums of money for being a mediocre hack and overentitled technoweenie, respectively, that’s money not being used to expand the company or compensate the cube farm workers who actually keep the place going.

We see this time and time again in American life. CEOs exit with absurdly generous golden parachutes no matter how dreadful their performance, while the employees they downsize or fire receive scraps. Sometimes the situations are all but absurd. At Wells Fargo, former CEO John Stumpf retired with more than $100 million in retirement benefits, apparently a reward for pushing sales goals so intense, the only way many employees could meet them was by opening fake accounts for unwitting customers.

The whistleblowers who attempted to report the scam over the years, on the other hand, were frequently shown the door. In at least one case, Wells Fargo initially refused to hire one former employee back even after ordered to do so by the Department of Labor, and only reached a confidential settlement with the woman in the face of sustained media attention.

And people wonder why the young folks are taking an interest in socialism.

The situation carries over into other areas. In 2008, the banks famously got bailed out, while millions of Americans lost their homes to foreclosure. A 2016 report by the Institute for Policy Studies and the Center for Effective Government found that even as Fortune 500 companies froze pension plans for the vast majority of their workforce, they did no such thing for the men and women in charge, who continued to be offered access to defined benefit packages for retirement.

Then there is Donald Trump, who has skated from bankruptcy to bankruptcy even as he’s stiffed everyone from creditors to small contractors. One reason for this rather stunning track record? Many of those who lent him money decided they would lose less on the deal if they kept him in business. He was too big to fail — at least permanently.

In a sane universe, Donald Trump would have been left penniless in the 1990s and today would be a used car salesman living in a trailer. See also Following Trump’s money exposes the awful truth: Our president is a ‘financial vampire’.

Seems to me these practices are not just bad for their companies; they are bad for the overall economy. At the very least we need much more regulation of executive compensation. No CEO is worth the money they arrange to pay themselves.

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The Entire Bleeping Republican Party Plus the Right Wing Media Infrastructure Are Responsible for the Bomber

Trump Maladministration

What my Facebook friend Jeffrey says.

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